Today I contemplated the issue of “indecision.” One of the comments I got most often from my secretaries, and this was when I was sitting in positions of power, was that before I left for the day, my in tray was cleared, my inbox was cleared and every decision that was needed had been made. It is something I take for granted that every body does. Not true, not true at all.
Today I met 5 people and I asked all 5 the same question, is your boss decisive or indecisive. All 5, without betting an eyelid said indecisive. I was stunned. I probed further and asked, what affect does your boss’s indecisiveness have on you. While they each said it in different words, my paraphrase of it was “it took the wind out of their sails.”
One of the 5 is a CEO of a PLC and his boss is his BOARD. It took so much wind out of his sail that he QUIT. Another is a Director in a global MNC, he too QUIT. Both are quite prominent characters who often are in the papers for the right reasons.
Now if indecision at the top can demotivate a CEO and Director to the point they quit, can you imagine the impact of indecision within an organization onto the general workforce? How much frustration, bottlenecking and loss of productivity does it causes?
Why are bosses, managers indecisive? I attribute it to one of two factors:
Factor 1: Wanting to make the most correct decision.
Factor 2: Unsure of the basis to make a decision.
Factor 1 is the manager who sits on decisions hoping that over time, it will crystalize and the correct answer will emerge. Like wine, the longer a decision is aged, the better it becomes. Finally a dateline comes up, and the decision has to be made and it is the pressure of the dateline that forces the decision.
Factor 2 has to do with a lack of clarity in terms of business, processes and accountabilities. A decision has to be made, but who should make it, who should give inputs to it, who will it affect? On what basis do I make this decision? In the end it just sits and waits and becomes like factor 1 where the dateline forces the decision.
It is for this reason that organizations need policy, business and process frameworks that are absolutely clear so that all decision can be weighted and traded-off against the framework. Over time I have come to realize that most all decision have a 50-50 chance of being correct, because to decide you need foresight and to evaluate the correctness of a decision we use hindsight.
So about 9 years ago I can to the conclusion that it is far cheaper to make a wrong decision and correct it than to make no decision and hold the entire organization up.
So my friends, if you currently sit on decision, my advise is just decide and once you do it you will feel a sense of relief running throught the organization. But never defend a bad decision. If your betting average is even just 50-50, trust me, you are doing well…..